Brookings, S.D. - A South Dakota legislative panel has cleared the way for people to carry guns on college campuses.
The proposal would prevent universities and tech schools from restricting people and their guns.
State Senator Stace Nelson is a sponsor of the bill and said there's nothing wrong with people arming themselves to protect themselves.
“We’ve got students in the state of South Dakota that are concerned about their constitutional right to defend themselves,” Senator Nelson said. “When looking at my constitutional duties as a state senator, in regards to this bill, it’s obvious that I have a duty and an obligation to support, defend, these law abiding students’ rights to bear arms and defend themselves.”
The state agency that oversees higher education, The Board of Regents, doesn't agree with this.
Several on campus student associations don't like it either.
“We thought it was important that they heard our voice and they know what we are thinking as students,” SDSU Students' Association Government Affairs Chair Cole McDougall said. “You know you come to campus you don’t know who your roommate is going to be. Your roommate could show up with a gun on day one. That’s a fine line right there between your safety and someone else’s right to carry a concealed gun.”
South Dakota State University students KSFY News spoke with Tuesday night have mixed reactions.
“A bill like this really makes me nervous,” SDSU senior Jennifer Mueller said. “The idea of having firearms just kind of an arm’s length away, even if you don’t know about it on the other side of your wall, is kind of scary to me.”
“Personally I have a lot of friends that hunt and I’m very comfortable with them carrying guns,” SDSU sophomore Gabbie Gervais said. “I feel safe. There’s probably a lot of guns sitting out in the pickups in the parking lot right now so I’m very comfortable with allowing guns on campus.”
Several students said they worry having guns on campus increases the likelihood of school shootings, but Senator Nelson said he doesn't believe gun free zones make anyone safer.
“The only thing gun free zones do is that it disarms law abiding citizens and makes them vulnerable to some of these attacks that we've see across the nation with people who have come onto our campuses and shot numerous people,” Nelson said.
The bill now advances to the full senate for consideration.